Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Shaver Mystery-Part Five

Taylor Victor Shaver (1903-1934) and the Dero of Detroit-Part One

It isn't clear what drew the Shaver family to Detroit in 1930. I suspect that they followed Taylor Shaver to the city, for the third of Ziba and Grace Shaver's five children was holding down a good job there with the Federal government. Although we as a nation had fallen on hard times in that first full year of the Great Depression, America's Motor City was still humming as it went on manufacturing and selling the automobiles that would, as Will Rogers observed, carry us to the poorhouse. Maybe the Shavers wanted in on the action. In any case, at the very least among the Shaver family, Ziba, Grace, and Richard made the move from Pennsylvania to Detroit, a city that would prove a fateful place for the future co-creator of the Shaver Mystery.

Richard Shaver attended classes at the Wicker School of Fine Arts in Detroit beginning in 1930. Young Sophie Gurvitch was also a student, then an instructor at the school. Shaver became an instructor, too, but when they were wed on June 29, 1932, in Detroit, both claimed to have been unemployed. Sometime in 1933 or 1934 (Mr. Childress, below, says 1932), Sophie Shaver bore a daughter, Evelyn Ann, presumably named after Sophie's younger sister. "During this time," writes David Hatcher Childress, "Richard took a job as a welder at Briggs Body at Highland Park, Michigan, working on an assembly line making bodies for the new V-8 Fords. Pay was 10 cents an hour and the work was hard, hot and dangerous." (1) While working on the assembly line, Shaver began undergoing strange experiences, but not before tragedy befell his family. Or maybe that tragedy wasn't just some random event but the first action taken against him by malevolent forces he found to be afoot in the world.

* * *

Taylor Victor Shaver was born on November 9, 1903, in Fairmount Springs, Pennsylvania. He was the middle child and middle son of Ziba R. Shaver (1875-1943) and Grace T. (Taylor) Shaver (1871-1961). Richard Shaver was younger by four years and no Shaver child came between them. Many years later, Richard Shaver said of his brother that their plans were "intertwined." (2)

Taylor Shaver graduated from Valparaiso University (as did Astounding Stories editor F. Orlin Tremaine, who was Shaver's senior by four years). According to a later article, Shaver served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Pennsylvania State Police. (3) Sometime in the 1920s (and no later than 1930), Shaver started working for the U.S. Immigration Service in Detroit and became chairman of the Board of Inquiry. It was by these occupations that Shaver gained the experience he needed to write adventure stories for boys.

Despite Taylor Shaver's authorship of several published short stories, including at least one science fiction story, I have not found a biography of him anywhere on the Internet. I'm writing now in part to correct that oversight. (It's the same reason I wrote about Sophie Gurvitch the other day, although there is a secret biography of her on the website AskArt.) But there's more to this biography than just a few facts about Shaver's life. First, he was co-author of a story that appeared as part of the Shaver Mystery of the 1940s. It seems certain to me that this story, "The Strange Disappearance of Guy Sylvester," was an outline, fragment, unfinished story, or unpublished story that Richard Shaver had among his papers and that Richard submitted to Raymond Palmer for publication in Amazing Stories. Palmer's workhorse Chester S. Geier must have then brought it to a publishable form, thereby winning himself credit as co-author. In any case, "The Strange Disappearance of Guy Sylvester" was published in Amazing Stories in March 1949, perhaps when the Shaver Mystery was beginning its downward slide.

Second, Taylor Shaver wrote a story that only by an occult coincidence has a connection to later speculations made not only by Raymond A. Palmer but also by Albert K. Bender, Gray Barker, and other authors of Forteana. (See, we're still on Barker and Bender, even if they haven't reared their heads lately. Just remember this word: continuity.) Before getting to that, I would like to show the storytelling credits for Taylor V. Shaver, taken from The FictionMags Index and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database:
  • "The Right to Solo" in Boys’ Life (May 1928)
  • "Sky Shy" in Boys’ Life (Sept. 1928)
  • "Snakes Alive" in Boys’ Life (Apr. 1929)
  • "Parachute for One" in The Open Road for Boys (Sept. 1929)
  • "Army Medicine" in Boys’ Life (Oct. 1929)
  • "Successfully Completed" in Boys’ Life (Feb. 1930)
  • "The Strange Disappearance of Guy Sylvester" with Chester S. Geier in Amazing Stories (Mar. 1949); reprinted in Amazing Stories Quarterly (Reissue) (Fall 1949)
As far as I know, Shaver never had a cover story, but here are three covers for magazines in which his stories appeared. Pay special attention to the second one.

Boys' Life, September 1928, an Aviation Number that included the story "Sky Shy" by Taylor V. Shaver. The image is small and hard to see, but I wonder if it has any sea monsters or other cryptozoological creatures hiding within. The artist's name appears in the lower right corner, but it's too small for me to see. Notice that he has obscured the continent of Antarctica with a cartouche. Was he trying to hide something?

Boys' Life, February 1930. Among its contents is Shaver's story "Successfully Completed." The title is ironic, considering this was Shaver's last story published in his lifetime. The cover artist is unknown. Now, note the writing on the side of the airplane (a Fairchild FC-2W2): Byrd Antarctic Expedition. We'll soon see why that's significant. Like in about thirty seconds.

Amazing Stories, March 1949, in which "The Strange Disappearance of Guy Sylvester" by Taylor V. Shaver and Chester S. Geier appeared. According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, this was Shaver's only published work of science fiction. The cover artist was Edmond Swiatek. The scientist here looks like the Green Arrow without his cap and mask.

On November 29, 1929, Commander Richard E. Byrd, Jr., and his crew, flying a Ford Trimotor named the Floyd Bennett, reached the South Pole by air. For his heroism and accomplishments, Byrd was promoted to the rank of rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. (The Boy Scouts of America had previously made him an Honorary Scout, in 1927.) Admiral Byrd made four more trips to Antarctica, in 1933-1934, 1939-1940, 1946-1947 (at the height of the Shaver Mystery), and 1955-1956. He was also invited by Nazi Germany to take part in the Neuschwabenland Antarctic Expedition in 1938-1939, but he declined. The Nazis went ahead and built a secret Antarctic base without him, and that's where they kept their flying saucers, where they sent Adolf Hitler after faking his death, and where they must have competed for building space with other operators of flying saucers, who came either from outer space or from the interior of our hollow earth, the opening of which is at the South Pole and through which Admiral Byrd had previously flown or would one day fly (in 1946-1947) to find a place that looked from the air like Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar or Marvel Comics' Savage Land. If you think that sounds like the ravings of a lunatic, you could be onto something. And yet these are the things that hundreds, if not thousands, if not millions of people of today believe.

So in the 1920s, Richard S. Shaver, who began reading Amazing Stories soon after it came out in 1926, who had a vivid imagination and at least the beginnings of mental illness, and who was a writer and the brother and son of writers, would have known of the Byrd expedition to the South Pole of November 1929. One of his brother's stories even appeared in an issue of Boys' Life, the cover of which showed an image of the Byrd expedition. (I don't know what the contents of that issue might have been, but I feel certain that Richard Shaver saw it and read it.) The Shaver brothers' plans may have been "intertwined," as Richard Shaver said, but I suspect that for him, everything was intertwined, everything connected, everything continuous. (4) Everything meant something in the big scheme of things, and only he could see the big scheme of things because only he knew of Earth's secret history in the form of his experiences with a prehistoric subterranean civilization of extraterrestrial origin. Only he was aware of the dero. (5)

To be continued . . .

(1) From "The Shaver Mystery" by David Hatcher Childress in Lost Continents and the Hollow Earth (Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999), p. 219. Fred Nadis is more precise, calling the company "Briggs Auto Body Plant" and Shaver's job "spot welder."
(2) Quoted in The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer's Amazing Pulp Journey by Fred Nadis (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher-Penguin, 2013), p. 65.
(3) "Taylor V. Shaver" (obituary), Detroit Free Press, Feb. 26, 1934, p. 3.
(4) In his article "UFOs and Antarctica" (in Lost Continents and the Hollow Earth) David Hatcher Childress discusses the American author and crackpot F. Amadeo Giannini, who propounded a theory of the Hollow Earth and the interconnectedness of worlds (i.e., a theory of Earth's secret history). Giannini called his theory "Physical Continuity of the Universe" and is supposed to have issued it in 1927, before Commander Byrd made his first flight (i.e., Giannini's theory has the Fortean quality of continuity and the crackpot's insistence that he came first, was there first, and knew first). Here is a quote from Mr. Childress' article:
     Giannini was the first to quote Byrd after he said "I'd like to see this land beyond the Pole. The area beyond the Pole is the center of the great unknown."
     Giannini believed that Byrd, speaking literally rather than figuratively, flew beyond the pole into the rest of the "physically continuous universe." (p. 258)
Joshua Blu Buhs has more to say about Giannini on his blog From an Oblique Angle (Aug. 25, 2014), here.
(5) Incidentally, in 1916, Richard E. Byrd, Jr., was assigned to the Rhode Island Naval Militia in Providence, Rhode Island. Not long afterwards, H.P. Lovecraft tried breaking into the Rhode Island National Guard. He might have come close to enlisting in the coastal artillery, but his overly protective mother stopped that from happening. I don't know whether the coastal artillery was a naval unit or an army unit, but is this another case of a missed connection? Anyway, Lovecraft went on to write "At the Mountains of Madness," a three-part serial in Astounding Stories (Feb./Mar./Apr. 1936) about an expedition to the South Pole involving the use of an airplane. The scientists in that expedition discover--what else but--a prehistoric subterranean civilization of extraterrestrial origins. Incidentally also, Byrd's middle name was Evelyn. Richard Shaver's daughter was also named Evelyn. I know, weird, right?

A U.S. Post Office commemorative stamp of the second Byrd Antarctic Expedition of 1933. There is not yet a hole shown at the South Pole, but this stamp was made before the story of its existence was blown wide open by conspiracy theorists. 

Here is the emblem of the Deutsche Antarktische Expedition of 1938-1939. I think it has been cleaned up a little for publication on the Internet, but you can at least see the hole. The problem is that if you're a Nazi and you're going to build a secret base at the South Pole, you don't want people to know about. (It wouldn't be a secret then, you know.) So instead, you disguise the hole as a circle of latitude.

In December 1959, Raymond A. Palmer published a Byrd-themed issue of his magazine Flying Saucers in which the idea of a hole-at-the-pole and flying saucers from Earth's interior passed from F. Amadeo Giannini's imagination into his own. (Gray Barker also had an article in this issue.) I skimmed through Palmer's lead story in the magazine but didn't find any mention of Shaver or his ideas. However, Palmer stated: "If the interior of the Earth is populated by a highly scientific and advanced race, we must make profitable contact with them . . . ."

Finally, in Palmer's Flying Saucers #69, from June 1970, we got to see the "First Photos of the Hole at the Pole." The resolution on this image is of course not fine enough for us to make out any dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, or Caroline Munro in an animal-skin bikini (darn it), but they're there, I tell you. They're all there. 

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Replies
    1. Thank You, D.M.,

      It's hard to beat Nazis, secret bases, and flying saucers, but I'll try in the next few parts.


  2. Sorry for my cryptical comment in a café in Berlin, now seriosly - I enjoy your blog - and the shaver serial. Do you now the shaver & palmer biography from toronto "War over Lemuria" from 2013? Many quentions obout biographical points are answered in this book (f.i. the complicated relationsship of Shaver and his daughter).
    Anyway - Of course "At the Mountains of Madness" ist NOT a Weird Tales Serial. it's a Astounding Stories serial. (1936 2,3,4; the first installmend is a cover story!) Best Regards, Matthias Käther

    1. Hi, Matthias,

      First I must say thank you for your correction regarding the publication of "At the Mountains of Madness." I have just now corrected the information in my article above.

      Second, I have read about Richard Toronto's work, but I don't have any of his books. I'm sure that he could answer some of the questions I have posed or left unanswered in my series on Richard Shaver.

      Thank you for reading and for writing.